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What is intermittent fasting? A breakdown of a new diet trend

ByQuincy Sugiuchi

Mar 1, 2019

Content Warning: mentions of a diet restriction and disordered eating. 

Intermittent fasting: the cool, new kid in the world of dieting. With the popularity of the body positivity movement and the increased awareness of the dangers of dieting, intermittent fasting sounds like an unlikely trend.

However, this type of fasting is not about going for days consuming little to no food. Instead, this diet, or some may say anti-diet, does not preach this type of limitations when it comes to the type of food being eaten and preaches having health benefits beyond the typical goal of losing weight.

First, intermittent fasting is not a guide to ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods, but rather it dictates a cycle of eating and fasting over the day. Intermittent fasting relies on our body’s natural circadian rhythm to optimise eating times.

There are multiple different strands of intermittent fasting: the 16/8 method, which means eating only during an eight-hour window, and the alternative day fasting (ADF) method in which some days are spent fasting and others are spent eating without restriction.

Within the eating time periods, participants are free to have meals and snacks as they would normally but the key rule is to ensure that the food is nutritious in order to properly reap the full health benefits of this type of eating.

The fasting periods can create change in our bodies on a biological level. The body reacts to fasting after about 12 hours of going without food. This typically manifests with the lowering of insulin sensitivity which in turn, increases the efficiency of many body processes. This is all very science-y, we know!

The main focus of this type of intermittent fasting is limiting your eating to specific times within the day. As a consequence, there is a stopping of late-night snacking which can eliminate the highly caloric foods that many people turn to for a midnight snack.

Unlike caloric-restrictive diets, intermittent fasting can easily become a part of a lifestyle that requires very little upkeep. People with some medical conditions, such as diabetes, should be extra cautious with such dieting. Diets are not one size fits all and our bodies are all different and should be treated as such.

Image: Agricultural Research Service via Wikimedia Commons 

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